A Spanish citizen was arrested this Wednesday at a Brazilian airport aboard a private plane in which the federal police found 1,304 kilos of cocaine. The Spaniard, whose identity has not been disclosed, was the only passenger on the aircraft that the agents boarded in Fortaleza, in the northeast of the country. The four crew members, of Turkish nationality, have also been arrested. The drug was packed in 24 suitcases that, according to a police note, belonged to the passenger.
The flight had taken off from Riberão Preto, a city in the interior of São Paulo, and its destination was Brussels (Belgium) but it made a stop in Fortaleza for immigration procedures. And it was there that the security forces intervened.
Police has released a video showing the moment the shipment was discovered. The passenger with a mask is seen sitting in his seat at a table on which rests a large suitcase secured with straps. The aircraft commander observes in the presence of a plainclothes agent. A second police officer who is not seen asks the passenger if the suitcase is his, he answers in Spanish that it is not, but at the insistence of the agent, he opens the zipper … and there are no clothes or personal supplies. The first agent begins to remove the bundles that he tears with a knife.
Drug trafficking networks do not stop innovating in an attempt to circumvent surveillance to transport their shipments from producers to consumers. Spanish police discovered last year a homemade submarine that managed to navigate the Amazon River with two crew members and 3,000 kilos of cocaine and reach the coast of Galicia in a 26-day journey. Two years ago, the Spanish Civil Guard detained in Seville a sergeant who was traveling on a Brazilian Air Force plane with 39 kilos of coca in his suitcase. The plane was going as a reserve flight alongside the one that transported President Jair Bolsonaro to Japan to a G-20 summit.
The head of the federal police in Ceará, Alan Robson, explained that they decided to intervene in the face of the evasive responses that the Spanish passenger gave to the security forces at the time of boarding. “The initial suspicions of the federal police have been confirmed. They said that they had gone to make tourism to Guarulhos, and there we began to suspect ”, explained Robson, according to the website Globo G1.
Guarulhos is a nondescript city in the São Paulo metropolitan belt where the international airport is located, the typical place where a foreigner traveling by private jet or regular flight would hardly go on vacation. This week the city has been heard a lot in the local media because gymnast Rebeca Andrade grew up there, who has won a gold and a silver at the Tokyo Games.
Upon hearing that they were coming from Guarulhos, the agents intervened. “We got on the plane, ordered the engines to stop and the suitcases to be opened,” said the police chief.
Brazil is an important point of drug trafficking from Paraguay and Bolivia to Europe. Most of the cargo travels by ship, camouflaged in containers. The mules, passengers who accept to carry drugs in their body in exchange for money, are another of the methods used by drug gangs. But in addition to transporting comparatively small quantities, the pandemic has reduced regular flight connections between Brazil, Spain and other European countries to a minimum.
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Faith of errors
The plane with the drugs was intercepted in the city of Fortaleza and not in Recife, as a first version of this information wrongly stated.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.